Folacin is also known as folic acid and folate. It is a water-soluble vitamin. It is one of the eight members of the B complex. These include vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, biotin, and pantothenic acid
What food source is the nutrient found in?
Foods naturally high in folacin include:
* citrus fruits
* yeast breads
* wheat germ
* peanuts and other legumes
* spinach and other dark greens
* organ meats
Fortified grain products such as commercial breads, cereals and pastas are good sources of folacin. Items made from enriched flour products supply folacin, as well. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) enacted a new law in 1998. This law states that enriched grain products must be fortified with folacin. This was done to ensure women of child-bearing age consume enough folacin. This law was also based on the data about other benefits of folacin. It is hoped that this "fortification" program will help all Americans to reach the desired level of 400 micrograms (mcg) of folacin a day. Researchers think that most Americans get between 220 to 280 mcg a day of folacin from their diets
The recommendation or the RDI (Recommended Daily Intake) for folacin is 400 mcg per day for adult men and women. This amount is especially important for women of child-bearing age. Daily intake of folate should not exceed 1,000 mcg. This is because too much folacin can mask the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency. The FDA restricts the amount of folacin available in nutritional supplements to 400 mcg for adults and 800 mcg for pregnant women.
How does the nutrient affect the body?
Folacin plays many important roles in the body:
* prevention of neural tube defects in fetuses before birth. Neural tube defects are malformations in the fetus that occur during pregnancy, involving defects in the skull and spinal column.
* normal growth and maintenance of all cells.
* involvement in production of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, that regulate mood, sleep, and appetite.
* works with vitamin B12 to form hemoglobin in red blood cells.
Folacin is a B vitamin required for many chemical processes in the body. Folic acid is a man made form of folate. It converts easily into the natural form of the vitamin in the body.
Getting enough folate during pregnancy is key to reducing the risk of neural tube defects in newborns. A neural tube defect arises when tissue does not properly close around the spinal column. This is also called spina bifida. Folate is crucial during the first 18 to 30 days of pregnancy. The baby's brain and spinal column are in a critical stage of development during this period. A woman may not even know that she is pregnant at this early stage. Neural tube defects occur in about one of every 1,000 births in the US and Canada. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, estimates that 400 mcg of folate per day could decrease this rate by about two-thirds.
As well as preventing birth defects, folate may have a role in lowering heart disease risk. Scientists are studying the link between folate and a substance called homocysteine. High homocysteine levels in the blood have been connected with a higher heart disease risk. Homocysteine levels seem to be lower in people who get plenty of folate in their diets. Current evidence also suggests that folate may have a role in the prevention of some cancers. This is especially true when it is consumed along with a variety of nutrients found in fruits, vegetables and other foods.
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